Darina Allen Simply Delicious The Classic Collection has just landed on my desk and I couldn’t be more excited – 29 years after the original little paperback was published to accompany the television series of the same name- I had red glasses and brown hair at that time and little did I know how Simply Delicious would change the course of the rest of my life.
It was terribly scary making the programmes, I had never seen a TV camera and had no idea how to go about it at first. I almost didn’t….. I was so scared it would be a complete flop and sure I’d make a total fool of myself. I tossed the idea backwards and forwards in my head, a mixture of apprehension and excitement. After much toing and froing I decided it would be easier to live with the series not being a huge success than with the eternal question of ‘What if…..?’
After the first few programmes people poured into local bookshops to buy the little 78 page Simply Delicious paperback. For many, it was the first cookbook they ever owned, the recipes well-tested for the Ballymaloe Cookery School worked, so as the Gill & Macmillan representative put it one night after a book signing, the book was selling in ‘telephone numbers’ and shops quickly ran out of copies. It went into a second printing immediately and there was a paper shortage, so for several of the eight weeks the programme was on air there was hardly a copy of Simply Delicious to be had in the country. Furthermore, the success was fuelled by another unlikely element. RTE didn’t anticipate the appeal of this new cookery series and ran it opposite Coronation Street. This was at a time when most houses would have been proud to own just one television and long before any form of playback, so there was many a family ‘fracas’ about which programme to watch. Viewers wrote to RTE and rang into chat shows to complain that it was causing ‘strife’ within the family. The repeat was rescheduled…
Simply Delicious went on to make Irish publishing history, topping the best sellers for months in a row and selling more copies than any previously published cookbook in Ireland: 115,000 copies in the first year of publication.
I’ve often been told that ‘dog-eared’ copies of these books are treasured possessions in many households and have in many cases been passed on to the next generation.
The Simply Delicious books have been out of print for many years but people regularly ask where they can find a copy of one or another, so this edition is especially for you. I’m delighted to be republishing this collection of 100 classic recipes from Simply Delicious I and 2 and Simply Delicious Vegetables. Choosing the recipes was a fascinating experience, so many have stood the test of time and are still perennial favourites. Some we have tweaked over the past 30 years or added more contemporary garnishes or complementary spices as the range of ingredients available has expanded considerably in the time since the recipes were first published.
People regularly complain that a friend borrowed their copy of Simply Delicious and didn’t return it. Others bring me well worn, gravy splashed copies for signing that are obviously well used and loved.
Many of our happiest childhood memories are connected to food. I hope you will enjoy this selection of recipes. For me it’s such a joy to know that for many, these simply delicious dishes have become treasured favourites to share with family and friends around the table. And I’m hoping that many of these time-honoured recipes will still be relished and enjoyed in 30 years’ time…
A Warm Salad with Irish Blue Cheese
Some ripe, crumbly Cashel Blue cheese now made by Jane and Louis Grubb’s daughter Sarah would be wonderful for this salad. A few little cubes of ripe pear are of course delicious here too. We also love their Crozier Blue cheese.
A selection of organic salad leaves, eg watercress, radicchio, endive, rocket, oakleaf and butterhead
12 round croutons, 1/4inch (5mm) thick, cut form a thin French stick.
45g soft butter
A clove of garlic, peeled
140g smoked streaky bacon, cut into 5mm lardons
50g Irish farmhouse blue cheese
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon arachide or sunflower oil
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoon chopped chervil and 2 teaspoon chopped tarragon or
4 teaspoon chopped parsley
1 heaped tablespoon of chervil sprigs or freshly chopped parsley
Whisk together the ingredients for the Vinaigrette Dressing.
Wash and dry the mixture of lettuces and salad leaves and tear into bite-sized pieces.
Spread both sides of the rounds of bread with softened butter. Put onto a baking sheet and bake in a moderate oven, 180˚C/Gas Mark 4, until golden and crisp on both sides, 20 minutes approx. Rub them with a clove of garlic and keep hot in a low oven with the door slightly open.
Blanch and refresh the bacon, dry well on kitchen paper.
Just before serving, sauté the bacon dice in a little extra virgin olive oil until golden.
Dress the lettuces with some vinaigrette in a salad bowl. Use just enough to make the leaves glisten. Crumble the cheese with a fork and add it to the salad, tossing them well together. Divide between 4 plates. Scatter the hot crispy bacon over the top, put 3 warm croutons on each plate and sprinkle sprigs of chervil or chopped parsley over the salad. Serve immediately.
Ballycotton Fish Pie
How fortunate are we to live close to the little fishing village of Ballycotton in East Cork. Everyone loves fish pie, the combination depends on the fish catch. Omit mussels and shrimps if they are not available.
1.1kg (2½lb) cod, hake, haddock
or grey sea mullet fillets or a mixture
salt and freshly ground pepper
15g (½oz) butter
600ml (1 pint) milk
110g (4oz) cooked mussels, out of shells
110g (4oz) cooked and peeled shrimps
55g (2oz) roux, approx.
¼ teaspoon mustard, preferably Dijon
140–170g (5–6oz) grated Irish Cheddar cheese or 85g (3oz) grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
800g (1lb 2oz) fluffy mashed potato or champ (optional)
30g (1oz) butter
55g (2oz) soft white breadcrumbs
Skin the fish and cut into portions: 170g (6oz) for a main course, 85g (3oz) for a starter. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Lay the pieces of fish in a lightly buttered sauté pan and cover with the cold milk. Bring to the boil, simmer for 4–5 minutes, or until the fish has changed colour. Remove the fish to a serving dish or dishes with a perforated spoon. Scatter the mussels and shrimps over the top.
Bring the milk back to the boil and thicken with roux to a light coating consistency. Add the mustard, two-thirds of the grated cheese and a couple of tablespoons of chopped parsley. Keep the remainder of the cheese for sprinkling over the top. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, taste and correct the seasoning if necessary.
Next make the breadcrumbs. Melt the butter in a pan and stir in the breadcrumbs. Remove from the heat immediately and allow to cool.
Coat the fish with the sauce. Mix the remaining grated cheese with the buttered crumbs and sprinkle over the top. Pipe a ruff of fluffy mashed potato or champ around the edge for a more substantial dish.
Cook in a preheated moderate oven (180°C/350°F/gas mark 4) for 15–20 minutes or until heated through and the top is golden brown and crispy. If necessary, place under the grill for a minute or two before you serve, to brown the edge of the potato.
Note: This dish may be served in individual dishes: scallop shells are particularly attractive, are completely ovenproof and may be used over and over again.
Chocolate Meringue Gateau
This recipe makes two layers of meringue but you can double the ingredients for a celebration cake or make individual little meringues.
2 egg whites
125 g (4½oz) icing sugar
2 rounded teaspoons cocoa powder, (we use Valrhona)
Chocolate and Rum Cream
30 g (1 oz) best quality dark chocolate
15 g (½ oz) unsweetened chocolate
1 tablespoon Jamaican rum
1 tablespoon cream
300 ml (½ pint) softly whipped cream
Preheat the oven to 150ºC/300ºF/regulo 2
Mark two 7½ inches (19 cm) circles on parchment paper.
Check that the bowl is dry, spotlessly clean and free of grease. Put the egg whites into the bowl and add 110g (4oz) icing sugar all at once; whisk until the mixture forms stiff, dry peaks, 10 minutes approx. Sieve together the cocoa and the remaining 15 g (½ oz) icing sugar and fold in very gently. Spread and bake immediately in the preheated oven for 45 minutes or until just crisp. Allow to get completely cold then peel off the paper.
Meanwhile, very gently melt the chocolate with the rum, and 1 tablespoon of cream in a very cool oven, or in a bowl over simmering water. Cool and add 2 tablespoon of cream into the chocolate. Mix well, then fold that into the remaining softly whipped cream to avoid a blockage; don’t stir too much or it may curdle.
Sandwich the two meringue discs together with Chocolate and Rum Cream and decorate with chocolate wafers.
55 g (2 ozs) best quality dark chocolate
Meanwhile make the chocolate wafers. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over barely simmering water. Stir until quite smooth. Spread on a flan piece of heavy, white notepaper or light card. Put into a cold place until stiff enough to cut in square or diamond shapes.
Good to know
The chocolate and rum cream can be tricky to make so stir well with the rum and cream, cool a little and fold in the softly whipped cream.
Lemon Fluff with Limoncello Cream
This is a gorgeous old-fashioned family pudding which separates into two quite distinct layers when it cooks; it has a fluffy top and a creamy lemon base, provided it is not overcooked.
40g (1½oz) butter
225g (8oz) castor sugar
3 organic free range eggs
75g (3oz/) plain flour
2 organic, unwaxed lemons
300ml (10fl oz) whole milk
300ml softly whipped cream flavoured with Limoncello or crème fraiche
1 x 1.2L (2 pint) pie dish
Preheat the oven to 180ºC/Gas Mark 4,
Cream the butter until really soft, then add the castor sugar and beat well.
Separate the egg yolks and add whisk in one by one, then stir in the flour. Grate the rind of 2 lemons on the finest part of the grater. Squeeze and strain the juice and add the rind and the juice, then add the milk.
Whisk the egg whites stiffly in a bowl and fold gently into the lemon mixture. Pour into the pie dish, place in a bain-marie and bake in a moderate oven, 180ºC/Gas Mark 4,for 35-40 minutes approx.
Dredge with icing sugar.
Serve immediately alongside the softly whipped cream flavoured to taste with Limoncello, or some crème fraîche.